By AARON RICHARDSON
Seth Casana stands on stage with his band Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings, steam rising from his head and beard, as he stares out over the crowd. Casana then grabs a fabric banner, trailing it behind him as he leaves the stage to frolic in the crowd.
This is the climactic scene from the documentary of Spaghettifest V, last year’s incarnation of the music festival Casana built. Casana is currently the wenbmaster for the UMW Web site. The festival grew out of the party atmosphere surrounding the live shows of his funk band, Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings.
And now, after five years, Casana is ending his involvement with the band and the festival. Starting in December, Casana will no longer have any involvement with Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings.
Casana is reluctant to say exactly what happened, but hints at creative and logistical differences within the band. “Issues about how we ran the band, and distance issues were becoming a bigger problem,” he said.
What this means for the energetic performer is a new start in the Fredericksburg area. However, Casana isn’t looking to recreate the Midnight Spaghetti atmosphere.
“I’ve got a lot of friends in town who do Americana Bluegrass-type music, and I’ve been writing a lot of stuff more in that vein,” he said.
Casana didn’t start performing as a funk band leader until his senior year at JMU. Then Casana and guitarist Mikael Glago built Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings, a powerhouse funk project that changed the house party scene at James Madison University.
“I thought it would be cool to start a funk band. Mikael had just dissolved his previous band, Alpine Recess, and we were like, let’s do it,” Casana says.
While Midnight Spaghetti didn’t form until his senior year of college, Casana has had a lifelong affinity for music.
“I have a naturally good ear and a weird ability to remember songs and song lyrics,” Casana said.
There were always instruments lying around the house when Casana was a kid, which meant he naturally developed multi-instrumental skill. Casana’s only formal musical training came from playing first trombone then tuba in marching bands from middle school through college.
“I also got a bass, and an accordion sort of as a joke for my birthday in tenth grade,” Casana said. When it was time to start Midnight Spaghetti, though, Casana was looking for a new direction.
Instead of confining himself to standing behind an instrument for the duration of a live performance, Casana made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to sing. “I wanted to have the rest of my body free to express myself physically,” Casana said.
With that in mind, Midnight Spaghetti aimed at being a musical experience, rather than just a band. With Casana not only singing but using props, dancing and running through the audience, seeing Midnight perform is as important as hearing the recorded songs.
“Midnight Spaghetti is about the live performances and the theatrics and the community that is formed at [live shows],” Casana says. While the recorded music that Midnight Spaghetti produces is only half of the band’s power, it is necessary to have the music recorded by itself.
“When you put the song down, you don’t have to apologize for it. You can say this is the song, full stop,” Casana said.
With the idea of fun a free expression firmly engrained in what Midnight Spaghetti represented, it made sense to have an event that brought like-minded acts together. Less than a year after Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings formed, Spaghettifest was born in 2003. Spaghettifest this year fell on September 26-8 at Natural Chimneys in Mt. Solon, Va.
The idea was to have a big event that people could come to and have fun, without feeling inhibited by everyday life. “I always feel like we give people permission to relax and enjoy themselves in a way that most situations prohibit,” Casana said.
Although Casana has officially ended his involvement with Spaghettifest, he says that this year’s festival was the biggest and best Spaghettifest yet. With these factors considered, Casana has no regrets.
Casana said he has been writing songs by himself recently. The new songs, he says are much more personal than what he wrote with Midnight.
“If you asked me when music became part of my life, that would be like me asking you ‘When did you start to eat?’” he said.